On a snowy winter’s night, members of the fledgling Sudbury Cyclists Union met in a downtown restaurant to plan for its second year. Rising from Earth Day 2010 festivities, the union advocates for a better cycling culture and works to raise awareness of cycling.
Members are raring to go. There’s a marketing strategy in partnership developed with the graphics and advertising programs at Cambrian College. The cyclists want to continue the Sunday rides launched last summer.
The union support the downtown’s streetscape program which includes a bike rack program.* There is talk about organzing a cycling film festival, similar to the Banff Mountain and Reel Paddling Festival. Another idea: members can keep in touch by visiting the union’s Facebook page.
This energy comes as part of renewed efforts to make improvements for cyclists and pedestrians. For some, the catalyst was the fact the road work conducted in 2009 contained few obvious benefits for cycling.
“It was a critical factor, not necessarily in the formation of the organization, but in the resonance the organization has had with the community,” says Steve May, a member of the union.
The federal stimulus funding came with some restrictions. Other factors, cost and availability of property, meant cycling corridors could not be part of the improvement projects on Lasalle Blvd. and Paris/Notre Dame streets, says David Shelsted, roads engineer with the City of Greater Sudbury.
As part of the stimulus funding, however, work was done on Falconbridge Rd. Sidewalks were added on the west side from The Kingsway to Auger St. Paved shoulders run the rest of the west side of to Lasalle. On the east side, sidewalks were installed from The Kingsway to Tulane St. Two-metre paved shoulders separated from the road by rumble strips stretch from the Skead Rd. turnoff to Garson and then Garson to the CNR overpass.
The paved shoulders serve many purposes, Shelsted says. “We also want people to walk on them because there are no sidewalks at those locations. Then, if a vehicle has a flat tire, they can pull over there. If a driver fields a cell phone call, they can also pull over and take the call safely.”
For the city, there are other cycling corridor successes. The Howey/Bellevue/Bancroft corridor has appropriate cycling signage and dash lines, dedicated bicycle lanes. Regional road 80 to the Valley has widened curb lanes and paved shoulders from Valleyview Rd. to Donaldson Cres. through McCrea Heights.
A 500-metre corridor on Regent St. S. from Telstar Ave. to Bouchard St. has been widened to 4.25 metres on both sides. Although this share the road lane is only 500 metres long, “you’ve got to start somewhere,” Shelsted says.
“As the remainder of the projects come up, we’ll continue to build on what we’re doing.”
For example, the Bancroft Bike corridor will be extended from Levesque St. to Moonlight Ave. this summer, as part of work to change a rural road into an urban road.
Engineering Sudbury for cycling comes down to cost and property. In many spots, including Lasalle there’s simply not enough room or property currently available, Shelsted says.
“What we’d like to do is get to a master map that shows the priorities of all users of the transportation network. Then we can identify priorities, and as projects are selected for that area, if we do have the property available for that area, we’ll go in and do what is required.”
Shelsted sees the discussion around cycling corridors as a good thing. “I think a healthy community should have the opportunity to travel through the transportation network which ever mode of transportation you want to take. We’ve been accused in the past of catering only to vehicles. However, I know we look at all modes of transportation.”
Some may laugh at the notion of cycling being safe in Sudbury. At first, the city’s Bicycle Advisory Panel’s John Wesley McGraw was apprehensive about cycling to work. Yet after an estimated 15,000 kilometres, he has had only two close calls. McGraw believes sharing the road is about mutual respect.
For the actual infrastructure, the advisory panel has devised a realistic, cost-effective technical plan, based on the sustainability mobility plan’s recommendations, for cycling to present to council, he says. A Sudbury cycling route map is recommended in the technical plan.
Another inspiration for many Sudbury cyclists has been the efforts of the Share the Road Coalition.
In 2009, Sudbury native Devon Kershaw, two-time Olympic skier, and winner of four medals at the 2011 Tour de ski, launched Share the Road rides in Sudbury.
The Sudbury-native lost his girlfriend, Sofie Manarin, when she was killed in a cycling accident in June 2001. Manarin was a rising star and the top North American skier at the 2001 world championships.
Shortly after her death, a broken Kershaw moved west and made Canmore, Alta., his training base. It nagged at him that he hadn’t done anything to make cycling safer in Sudbury.
Then he discovered Share the Road. Of all people, coalition founder Eleanor McMahon understood: her husband Greg Stobbard was killed in 2006 on a training ride in Milton. She launched a coalition that seeks to unite cyclists and work with municipalities become more cycle friendly.
Over 150 people attended that first ride in 2009 with Kershaw and his girlfriend, Chandra Crawford, the 2006 Olympic cross-country skiing champion.
In 2010, the Share the Road ride suffered a devastating moment when participant Giovanni Leon and a car collided, eerily close to where Manarin had been killed on Long Lake Rd.
Still, Share the Road is expected to return this summer, dependent on Kershaw’s schedule. He has become a member of the coalition’s board.
Kershaw believes all communities must realize that kids should be able to bike to school safely and parents should feel good about that. “We can’t say that in Sudbury. I think we need to make that a priority.
“It is a great community and it does support an active lifestyle. I want to be part of that.”